Thursday, January 22, 2009

Those Poor BBC Folks

Jahn Kampfner is the the boss of Index of Censorship, a British groups who describe themselves thus:

Index on Censorship is Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression. Our award-winning magazine and website provide a window for original, challenging and intelligent writing on these vital issues around the world. Our international projects in media, arts and education put our philosophy into action.

An admirable group, you'd think, engaged in the kind of things we instinctively support, an agency we automatically commend. Or at least, that's what you'd think. Until you look at their homepage and notice that the third of three "News in Brief" items is about how Fatah in Ramallah has arrested a journalist for decrying that the Ramallites aren't allowed to demonstrate about the events in Gaza (which, by the way, isn't true - they did for a few days, until the demonstrators stopped coming). Far be it from me to defend Fatah, but it does seem to have been fact that at the same time Hamas types were arresting, torturing and even killing fellow Gazans they felt had been perhaps not on their side in the recent violence.

At which point you begin to wonder who these folks really are, and what their agenda is. But I leave that for a future investigation which I probably won't do.

Anyway, last week Mr. Kampfner wrote a column (at the Guardian, where else?) which I missed at the time, bemoaning how the BBC has been cowed and no longer dares tell the story of the Israel-Palestine conflict as it really is.

Language, as any propagandist knows, is the most important tool. Hamas fighters are called "militants". That, I am told, is a halfway house between "terrorist" and more sympathetic labels such as "guerrillas". The Israeli army is often referred to by its formal title, the Israel Defence Forces. The bombardment of Gaza has regularly been described as "the Israeli operation". Such language denudes coverage of impact.

In a perfect world, it would be "Hamas freedom fighters facing fascist Israeli murderers", I suppose. Someone's gotta assist the poor Palestinians, after all, given their awesome power:

Led by Regev, a charismatic, Australian-born spokesman, Israel has amassed a formidable public relations operation. Following the failures of the Lebanon war it has created a National Information Directorate. The power of the message has long been at its strongest in the US, where academics and journalists know that criticism of Israel may harm their careers. (My italics).

All in all, it's a rather illuminating example of how such people see the world.


Gavin said...

They certainly seem to live in an alternate reality Yaacov. The general theme of the reporting on Gaza has been one of selective quotes, of which the content has never been verified and most of which are wild exaggerations or outright lies. The quality of reporting has been appalling.

Israel may be doing itself a favour if they started banning the worst of the anti-Israel reporters, why should the likes of Bowen from the BBC even be let into the country if he's going to abuse the privilege? Some of these reporters careers will look a bit shaky if they lose one of the few safe havens for reporters in the Middle East.

Personally I think Israels international public relations has been a disaster, it's a subject I'd like to ask you about sometime. Posting precision-bombing videos on Utube isn't exactly the best way to win friends & influence people. What on earth were they thinking?

adam d. said...


I think Israels' PR is better than it seems. There are only two messages that need to get out.

1. Israel is law abiding and acting according to its rights
2. Israel's enemies cannot win, ever

The press' framing of the conflict is as booby trapped against Israel as any Gaza neighborhood, but it still seems to me that both messages to get out.

Anonymous said...

whoever understands German and has illusions about the fairness of German media should listen to this one. The ARD or Das Erste is kind of the German BBC, i.e. publicly financed Broadcasting.
and they also offer a so called Faktencheck (link on the right side where experts(?) comment on what the participants said. rgds, Silke
Sendung vom 21.01.2009
Blutige Trümmer in Gaza -
wie weit geht unsere Solidarität mit Israel?
Nach den Kriegsbildern sind die Deutschen hin und her gerissen: Was sollen sie stärker verurteilen? Den Raketenterror der Hamas oder die Kriegswalze Israels? Wer lügt? Wer hat Recht? Und ist es für uns tabu, auch Israel offen zu kritisieren?

Gavin said...


Look at it this way. Iran are the puppetmaster, they're the prime cause of all the latest death & suffering in Gaza & Israel. And who have the media around the world blamed for it? Iran have escaped all liability, they're happy to fight Israel down to the last Palestinian or Lebanese civilian and yet they get no condemnation for their activities.

There is a fair lashing of latent anti-semiticism in the world, especially in Europe, but not all the anti-Israel sentiment is anti-semiticism. The masses just believe what they hear, see & read in the media.

There's a propaganda war being waged against Israel, and Israel have been reacting the wrong way to it.

Israel can't end up alone, it needs friends and it's losing many of those who would be friends if they were properly informed. That's what PR is about.


Adam d. said...


I hardly know what to say. I'm looking at a world in which European liberals are essentially taking sides in a Palestinian civil war, and they're taking the wrong side, it seems, just because Israel has taken the right one.

PR? What can you say to people who quite obviously couldn't care less about making sense? I think carol has the answer to that. You ridicule them. That's the only thing that has any chance.

Anonymous said...

I think neither ridiculing nor bashing those western Kassam-excusers is going to produce the right answer. It certainly feels good to do it but it does not help the case in any significant way - just the other way around, the ridiculed and bashed claim with no small success victim-status for themselves.

I've been thinking back what made me so unwaveringly open to all pro-Israel arguments in the first place.
Of course it started with reading Anne Frank's diary in school! in 1955 - how could they, my elders, dare to murder a girl just like me!! and then probably around the time when we all were enthusiastic about that Disney-film about the living desert there were those clips in the movie news before the film where Israelis grew all kinds of stuff in the desert. Phantastic! those rebels who wouldn't take no for an answer who would try against all odds and proved to be right

I do not know which image could fire up youngsters today and claiming to be able to make it against all odds into eternity is also not an enticing prospect but somebody has to come up with a super-briliant idea that makes Israel hip again - after all it is situated on the shore of the Mediterranean

(by the way I just read Norwich's the Middle Sea - when he gets to around 1600 he mentions that there was for the first time a peace lasting for 25 years - measuring Israel against that record seems to fulfill Churchill's hope that it might bring some moderation to the Arab part of the Mediterranean - isn't it amazing how everybody expected the Israelis to spin gold out of straw and do not even dream of our playing a benevolent Rumpelstilzchen for you)

Gavin said...

Silke I agree. It's also worth noting that one doesn't have the power to ridicule the liberals. They have the soapbox. The mainstream media (MSM) has gradually been infiltrated by these liberals who by now dominate world reporting.

The MSM is where most of the world get their information from. If the MSM constantly promote a negative and critical view of Israel then most people around the world will hold a negative view of Israel.

I'm rather bemused by the lack of tactical awareness of the media war that's being waged. Hamas have a very smooth operation with the entire Palestinian media organisation in Gaza complicit in the staged videos, fake massacres & false stories about casualties & incidents.

Every Palestinian stringer, reporter & cameraman is co-operating in pushing the Hamas story that Israel is committing war crimes & is in breach of humanitarian law etc. They all sing from the same hymn book, and that just has to be co-ordinated. It's a deliberate tactic, and Israel fall for it every time.

Israelis are good fighters but they don't seem to be able to fight the diplomatic & media wars very well. Those wars need to be won too.


Adam d. said...

The Onion does a good job of ridiculing liberals.

I thought about writing a piece about Durban with a title something like, "Human rights organizations working under UN auspices release guidelines for the humane slaughter of Jews".

Some dry technical language and a few heart stopping quotes, and I think it would go over pretty well.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately it seems to be not only the MSM but teachers for all ages and probably kindergardeners as well -
it is this phantastic idea that the stronger party and the one more amenable to reason has to fight with its arms tied behind its back. Of course in their own interest decent armies should keep within acceptable rules for the conduct of war so as not to submit their own people to more atrocious experiences than absolutely necessary but I do not expect them to climb ever new heights of ideas about fair combat stemming from the wet dreams of people who themselves would run screaming with terror from even a moderate barroom brawl - which I would also do but then I would not presume to judge of what restraint a soldier confronting his own death is capable of. I for myself make a big difference between what an army has to sanction and on what I'd be willing to judge upon in the case of an individual soldier's/commander's stepping over the line.

Anonymous said...

Adam d.
I like your idea for such a satire
here is by the way an Egyptian try at imitating Jonathan Swift's piece about Irish babies
Assuming that the writer intended to bash Israel really hard she botched it. It is less than mediocre and I even wonder if she doesn't konow/understand the Swift piece.

Anonymous said...

Silke, thanks for this interesting ARD link.

Anonymous said...

the BBC and the Guardian may be completely gaga but there is at least one British soldier who speaks for the IDF in a way which delights me - hopefully such Britains will become the fashion

White phosphorous is used because it provides an instant smokescreen, other munitions can provide a smokescreen but the effect is not instant. Faced with overwhelming enemy fire and wounded comrades, every commander would choose to screen his men instantly, to do otherwise would be negligent.